Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ford! Now that I have your attention...

...how about we take a look at Rob Ford's polling numbers?

Did Rob Ford's approval ratings actually go up after Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair confirmed the existence of a video seeming to show the Toronto mayor smoking crack cocaine (which he admitted to yesterday)? The answer is: probably not. I took a look at this, among other things, in my article today for The Globe and Mail (available to subscribers only, please consider a subscription if you can), but considering that the notion that Ford's approval ratings increased after Blair's press conference last week has been cited all over the place - including CNN and on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night - I wanted to address this here in more detail.

First of all, the polls in question come from Forum Research and I have already gone over some of the potential sampling issues with their methodology before. But secondly, their numbers need to be placed in a lot more context. Ford's approval ratings did go up, but only after they plummeted. After polling between 44% and 49% over the summer, he managed 39% in a late October poll. So when his numbers moved back to the 43% to 44% range over Forum's last two polls, the moral of the story seemed to be that crack cocaine is good for your re-election chances. But is that really accurate?

The chart above shows the evolution of Rob Ford's approval ratings in Forum Research's polling since mid-2011 (to give it better focus, I cut off the y-axis at 30%). As you can see, they had generally been trending slightly upwards but for the most part have been between 41% and 47% throughout his tenure. That is rather stable.

I have highlighted the four polls done over the summer, conducted after the initial aftermath of the first Gawker report on the existence of the video, and before the odd 39% poll that Forum released at the end of October. If we compare that group of polls to the more recent one, we see that Ford's approval rating is more likely to have decreased due to Blair's report than increased. That 39% poll looks a lot like an outlier. It was the worst poll Forum had put out for Ford since February 2012, and of 32 polls conducted since September 2011 it was in the bottom three.

Can we now put to bed the claim that his poll numbers increased? It seems much more likely that his poll numbers decreased from around 46.5% over the summer to 43.5% immediately after the police chief's report. Where they will go from here, we will soon find out.

Ford made it clear that (for now, at least, things seem to be changing from hour to hour) he will be running again in October 2014. His chances of re-elections are, perhaps, not very good. But they are also a lot better than they probably should be, considering the events of the last few days.

Forum has been conducting hypothetical mayoral polling for some time now, with unusual names sometimes thrown into the mix. But the field is starting to get a little clearer: Karen Stintz, a city councilor, and David Soknacki, a former city councilor, have both announced their intentions to run. Olivia Chow, a downtown NDP MP, is also considered likely to run. How would Ford do against these candidates?
Note that this poll was done before yesterday's circus, and that I have removed the undecideds (numbered at 21% in the poll on the left, 10% on the right) myself.

Against Karen Stintz, Rob Ford comes up short with just 42% support against 48% for Stintz among decided voters. Soknacki takes 10% of the vote. That is still relatively close, though, and certainly close enough that Ford couldn't be ruled out in a campaign one year from now.

And he still has a bit of a regional base. He wins North York with 48% of the vote against Stintz, as well as Scarborough with 54%. Stintz takes Etobicoke with 48%, while she dominates the old city of Toronto with 62% of the vote.

Once Olivia Chow is included, however, Stintz falls away significantly. This suggests that Stintz's support in the first poll is more about not being Rob Ford than it is about being Karen Stintz. Chow wins by a much wider margin with 43% of the decided vote, against 32% for Ford, 18% for Stintz, and 7% for Soknacki. Chow wins every region of the city, with 48% support in old Toronto, 44% in North York, 41% in Scarborough, and 38% in Etobicoke (where Ford comes closest to winning).

In the first poll, Stintz manages to drag 21% of Ford's 2010 vote towards her. In the second poll, Chow captures 20% of Ford's vote, while Stintz takes another 10%.

The Toronto mayor still has a potent base and it makes him potentially competitive in the next campaign (if he holds on until then, and his vote does not tank after yesterday's admission), but it might have shrunk to a size that does not make him capable of winning. In the end, though, we need to wait and see how things shake out before coming to any initial conclusions about his electoral chances a year from now. The current landscape is just changing too much. But reports of Ford's resilience may be exaggerated.

27 comments:

  1. If anybody needs to disappear from the public stage it's this oaf, Rob Ford !

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  2. Peter I agree. believe it or not I'm thinking of voting Liberal in the next Federal election. I don't like the anti union stance of the CPC. Tony Clement is just a hatchet man. I'll be interested in seeing how all of this is looking a year from now.

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    1. Peter and Earl,

      Your comments demonstrate why Ford won in 2010. They are patronising to be polite and show a disrespect for choices that do not agree with your own.

      In 2010 Torontonians overwhelmingly rejected the diktat of the Ontario Liberal party in choice of mayor and they will do so again if they feel the Liberal and NDP parties are forcing their choice upon Toronto.

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  3. If you think the libs are gonna be better, you've got another thing coming

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    1. Maybe not but at least it will be a change from one farce to another, eh?

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    2. In terms of regulating unions, I do think it would be reasonable to expect a different approach from the Liberals than the Conservatives. How you view that difference is going to depend on how you view unions of course.

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    3. Honestly this anti-union thrust by the CPC is simply not Canadian !! It's symptomatic of the insanity of the Tea Party in the USA !!

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    4. Let's bring things back on topic.

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    5. Éric, my sense is that Rob Ford won't be mayor for much longer and won't be on the ballot next year.

      However, if he does manage to run again, my fear is that he could win with ~30% if the "anti-Ford" vote splits multiple ways. Denis Coderre just proved in Montreal that 32% is enough to win in a crowded field.

      If a lot of "serious" candidates run against Ford (John Tory, Olivia Chow, Karen Stintz, etc.), Ford could win if he polled 32%.

      I think the provincial government should change the electoral law for Toronto (and perhaps other large cities) to require a preferential or run-off ballot.

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    6. Doug Varley - agreed 100%. For all 'first past the post' elections we need a run off of some kind - ideally the preferential ballot method where each voter can say #1 choice, #2 and so on so splitting the vote is removed from our election vocabulary.

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  4. Dear Toronto,

    Please re-elect Rob Ford. He's God's gift to Liberals in Ontario, and he's hilarious to watch.

    Sincerely,

    Ryan

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  5. It always baffles me that the conservative base is all about law and order, long prison sentences, and whatnot. Until it's one of their own that's breaking the law.

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    1. Yeah, It's not at all like love of insite, rehabilitation, forgiveness..... until its a conservative....

      Not like that at all.

      You can pretend that all the hypocrites are on the other side all you want though.

      But poll after poll for people like Harper, McGuinty, Ford would seem to show that people don't think there is another chose no matter how bad you think the guy there is.

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  6. Do as I say not as I do ??

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  7. Eric,

    As we know municipal elections often have very low turn out around one third of eligible voters. After the BC election some polling firms have begun weighting responses most notably among the under 35 cohort.

    If the polls above (Toronto mayoral election 2014) were weighted for likely turnout how would the numbers change?

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    1. A cursory look tells me that it wouldn't change the Stintz vs. Ford numbers much, but would narrow the gap considerably in the Chow vs. Ford poll.

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    2. Thanks Eric.

      It certainly will be an interesting and competitive race.

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    3. This guy still seems to buy heavily into the poll: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/mitch-wolfe/rob-ford-mayor_b_4254026.html

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  8. Given Eric's chart above Olivia Chow would destroy Ford.

    Bring on an election !!

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    1. Smitherman was gonna thump him too ....

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  9. Ford was wayyy ahead of Smitherman six months before the election...but people were in denial. Also Chow is an attractive candidate. Smoitherman was repulsive.

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    1. Chow is a very flawed candidate. She may appeal to the 33% who live downtown but, she will have trouble attracting the majority of citizens.

      In my opinion Chow is far less attractive than Smitherman for a variety of reasons; Smitherman for all his faults at least had executive management experience in cabinet. Never mind the fear among many that Chow as mayor will increase taxes and pursue an agenda of high spending.

      As I said above if the people of Toronto feel a candidate is being forced on them by a cadre of downtown "elites" they will choose a candidate who best reflects their opinions.

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    2. If Toronto was still split (as it was pre-Harris) then Chow would be a lock and Ford would easily be mayor of Etobicoke but also would be ignored.

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  10. There have been big movements of support during most of the recent Mayoral election campaigns in Toronto. Perhaps this is because the candidates do not run for particular parties which would anchor their support to some degree.
    Although Ford may have a fairly solid base of between a quarter to a third of the electorate, pretty much everyone else is appalled by him. Therefore I would expect that over the course of the campaign a great many voters will coalesce behind whoever emerges as Ford's main opponent. For this reason I don't think he will be able to be re-elected on a split vote.

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  11. Toronto Star today

    Mayor Rob Ford caught in video rant

    Rob Ford has been caught on a new video staggering around an unknown living room ranting gibberish and acting wildly.

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  12. As someone who was a long-time supporter of Ralph Klein, I do not care what a politician does in his private life. If I were a Torontonian, I would judge Rob Ford purely based on how good a job he's doing as Mayor.

    I am completely indifferent to Rob Ford's drunken stupors.

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  13. My taxes are going UP under Ford to help pay for his hare-brained white elephant of a subway to no where in Scarborough...Thanks to Ford i pay MORE tax and get LESS service.

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